Healthy and Safe Food

Pesticide residues

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspects fruits and vegetables in Canada for pesticide residues each year. The test results consistently confirm that the overwhelming majority of foods on the market meets Canadian standards for food safety. There’s no such thing as “zero” when you’re looking for residues or controlling risks, but Health Canada sets the acceptable amount of pesticide allowed to remain on food — called Maximum Residue Limits (MRL) — far below the amount that could pose a health concern, just to be sure that people and food are safe. Today’s lab equipment and testing methods are so precise that they can find amounts that are still detectable, but are so tiny that they won’t cause harm. For perspective: we can now detect residues in parts per billion, which is the equivalent of one second in 32 years! Every year, a US-based environmental group releases a “dirty dozen” list of fruits and vegetables which it says should be avoided
due to high pesticide residue levels. Scientific analysis has found that if residues are present, they’re almost always at extremely low levels that don’t cause harm. A child would have to eat 7,240 servings of carrots per day before pesticide residues would be a concern!

The bottom line:

You don’t have to worry about Canadian fruits and vegetables; they’re safe, although we still encourage you to wash your produce before eating.

Faster plant-breeding for more sustainable food production

Modern technologies build on conventional plant breeding, allowing for faster and more efficient development of new crops and plants. These crops and plants have traits to make them more resistant to drought or other weather extremes, render them tastier, or even make them contain higher levels of healthy compounds. The latest tools are part of the “-omics” family. Genomics, for example, is all about the DNA — or the written instruction book — of an organism. Scientists study the genomes of plants to look for desirable traits, and then use genetic markers to identify where on a specific DNA sequence they are located, speeding up the plant breeding process. The use of metabolomics is an emerging field that can help plant breeders to understand how and why a plant reacts the way it does to specific conditions. Researchers at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, for example, are using metabolomics as a way to develop new pest management tools for flower growers — by feeding chrysanthemums less fertilizer, they could reduce the populations of a common flower pest called thrips by 30 to 50 per cent, because the plant itself becomes a less appealing food source for the bug.

About glyphosate

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, is the most widely used weed control product in agriculture. It’s one of many tools farmers use to control weeds in crops like canola, soybeans, and corn, or before planting other crops. To prevent weeds from becoming resistant to the product, and therefore uncontrollable, farmers rotate crops that use different pesticides or active ingredients (that’s the main ingredient in a pesticide that actually controls the weeds). After reviewing more than 1,300 studies, Health Canada has found that, when used according to the label directions, glyphosate will not cause cancer or pose other risks to people or the environment.